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National moving to reduce sugar content in products

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor — publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com
Friday, April 21, 2017


National Baking Company is moving to reduce sugar content in its products in keeping with current global health trends.

“It’s not going to be an optional thing for manufacturers in the future,” Gary “Butch” Hendrickson, the company’s chairman and CEO, told the Jamaica Observer. “It’s a reality that we have to face, which is the reality of people’s health, the reality that Jamaica is part of an international protocol.”

Hendrickson’s protocol reference was to a World Health Organization (WHO) guideline recommending that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10 per cent of their total energy intake.

WHO also recommended that a further reduction to below five per cent or roughly 25 grammes (six teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.

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According to Dr Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, keeping free sugars to less than 10 per cent of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay.

Free sugars, WHO explained, refer to monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by manufacturers, cooks or consumers, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

WHO pointed out that its guideline “does not refer to the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, and sugars naturally present in milk, because there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming these sugars”.

Over the past few years, National has been placing greater focus on health in new products it has been introducing to the market under its Healthy Start line. The products include Multi-Grain Bread, Low-Fat Honey Wheat Bread, 100 per cent Whole Wheat Plus Omega 3 Bread, Raisin, Oats and Cinnamon Bread, and Wheat Bran and Oat Crackers with Omega 3.

In addition to the sugar reduction, Hendrickson said the company will also focus on introducing whole grain snacks and reducing the amount of sodium where possible.

“Let’s face it, we consume too much sugar, to our detriment,” Hendrickson said. “I want our industry to be vibrant and healthy, and at the same time we have to be mindful of our people’s health. So we’ll work on that and at the same time we’ll always try to increase the amount of whole grain that we sell. We’ve done that over the years dramatically — the whole grain and the high-fibre content — bearing mind that a dough can only support so much fibre. If you put too much in there it breaks apart.”

He said his company, which produces at least 78 baked products, works with its suppliers and the flour mills to see what’s new. However, he was firm that there are some products that National will not sell.

“People come to us and say ‘why don’t you make this?’, but you know, if the children of the Hendrickson family can’t eat it, well, I’m not going to make it and sell it,” he said. “Jamaicans have enough issues. I don’t need to be providing unduly unhealthy things for consumption.”

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